China Will Use Blockchain-Based RealDID System to Verify Identities of Its 1.4 Billion Citizens

China is launching a blockchain-based RealDID system. The service will enable anonymous access to online services – after it collects users’ personal details.

BSN network RealDID

Keeping your identity secret in China will become a bit harder (not that it’s been easy so far) – and a bit easier at the same time. Overall, though, it’s not a trade-off you’d go for if you had a choice.

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is about to launch RealDID – the world’s first blockchain-based, national-level system for verifying citizens’ real-name identity. The project, spearheaded by the Ministry of Public Security, has been developed by the Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN), a state company providing blockchain infrastructure for state and commercial clients.

So, where’s the “easier” part?

RealDID will allow users to sign up and sign in to web services, such as websites or apps, with decentralized identifiers (DIDs) and private keys – without disclosing personal information. Such an approach will help keep business data disconnected from personal details.

However, the real-name user identity will be “secured” by the state-run RealDID system. So, if you’re signing up to a service you’d prefer to keep as your dirty little secret, there’s a limit to your anonymity.

The project’s announcement follows a recent change in regulations requiring top-tier influencers to reveal their identities. As of October, the biggest Chinese social media platforms, including WeChat, Sina Weibo, Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili, and Xiaohongshu, mandate online “celebrities” with over 500,000 or 1 million followers to use their real names or the names of their financial supporters on their profile pages.

The BSN network was launched in 2020 in Hong Kong. The network provides the blockchain backbone for large-scale projects, both state-backed and private. Currently, it supports the DLT infrastructure for over 1,500 companies, including foreign firms like Fujifilm. Western companies also are not shy of leveraging China’s blockchain architecture. HSBC, the UK banking giant, has been examining the potential of the BSN for its payments system.

Last year, the BSN launched a beta version of its international offshoot – the BSN Spartan Network. The public permissioned network supports popular blockchains, including Ethereum and Polygon Edge, but not cryptocurrencies (neither does the “original” BSN). The validator nodes are run by large corporations such as Emperor Group, Lan Kwai Fong Group, and HSBC.